EU Agrees to Cut Greenhouse Emissions and Boost Clean Energy by 2020

March 14, 2007

The European Union (EU) agreed on March 9th to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The agreement is the first major commitment for GHG reductions beyond the time frame of the Kyoto Protocol, which requires the EU to reduce its GHG emissions to 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. While committing unilaterally to cut its emissions, the EU intends to enter international negotiations with a target of cutting the GHG emissions of industrialized countries to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and to further cut global GHG emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. See the press release from the European Commission, and see the Web site for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for information on the Kyoto Protocol.

The EU heads of state also agreed to aggressive clean energy targets as part of their commitment to cut GHG emissions. The EU agreed to cut its global primary energy use by 20 percent by 2020. "Global primary" energy use counts all the energy consumed worldwide caused by any action in the EU, including, for instance, the energy used to produce any fuels, electricity, or products that are imported into the EU. The European Commission estimates that this will include a 13 percent cut in energy consumption within the EU. And although the EU already expects to fall short of its goal of using renewable energy for 12 percent of its energy by 2010, the EU heads of state have agreed to set a binding target of using renewable energy to meet 20 percent of the EU's total energy needs by 2020. As part of that target, the EU agreed to replace at least 10 percent of its vehicle fuel with biofuels by 2020. See the European Commission document, "An Energy Policy for Europe," on which the new agreement is based.